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She Shoulda Said No & The Devils Sleep
The sixth entry in Kino Lorber's Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age Of The Exploitation Picture, which is done in conjunction with Something Weird Video, is 1949's She Shoulda No!, a seventy-one-minute look at the evils of recreational marijuana use!
Also known as Wild Weed and as The Devil's Weed, this picture, presented by legendary exploitation film pioneer Kroger Babb, stars lovely Lila Leeds as a young woman named Anne Lester. She makes ends meet as a dancer, using whatever extra money she can scrape together to help get her brother Bob (David Holt) though college. She winds up falling in with some bad seeds, lured in by mister fancy-pants, Markey (Alan Baxter) and gets really into smoking pot. She gets canned from her dancing gig and winds up working for Markey, moving quickly towards rock bottom. When Bob finds out what's happened to his sister, he hangs himself!
When Anne's former employer turns her in, she lands herself a stint in the clink. During her stint behind bars, a cop named Hayes (Lyle Talbot) enlists her aid in bringing down Markey and Jonathan Treanor (Michael Whalen), the man behind the whole operation, once and for all!
\\\"Rips the veil of secrecy from marihuana smokers!\\\"
She Shoulda Said No! is pretty entertaining slice of vintage exploitation. It doesn't really bring anything new to the drug scare film formula, but it does what it does rather well, showing us how that evil weed can so easily lead to the corruption and downfall of an otherwise innocent, if slightly naïve, person. That said, Sam Newfield, credited here as Sherman Scott, paces the picture pretty well and keeps enough coming at us throughout the film's brisk seventy-one-minute running time that the picture proves consistently entertaining, even if it is a little bit on the predictable side in terms of how it all plays out. The scene where Anne gets her first glimpse of prison life and sees, first hand, where her choices could take her is quite memorable for how melodramatic it all is.
Interestingly enough, the beautiful Ms. Leeds was cast by Babb for the lead in this role to take advantage of the publicity that erupted when she, along with Robert Mitchum, was busted for illegal use of marijuana a year before this picture was made, once again proving the old adage that there's no such thing as negative publicity. She's quite good here, actually, very likable and believable enough as the gal who just got mixed up with a bad crowd. If nothing else, she's very sympathetic in the role, and that goes a long way. Supporting work from Alan Baxter and Michael Whalen as the two heavies in the film is pretty enjoyable, while Lyle Talbot does a nice job chewing some of the scenery as a stereotypical hard-boiled cop, the kind that won't rest until he gets his man. It's also worth keeping your eyes open for a small role for the instantly recognizable Jack Elam, cast here as a henchman in one of his first roles.
She Should Said No arrives on Blu-ray transferred from an unspecified source but from elements that look to be an archival print. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is framed at 1.33.1, the film's original aspect ratio, and it takes up 18.2GBs of space on the 50GB disc. There's print damage noticeable throughout, mostly vertical scratches, but if you can look past that this isn't in particularly bad shape for a low budget exploitation picture fast approaching its centennial. The black and white picture shows occasional contrast blooming but that is almost certainly a result of the original camera work. Black levels are decent and the grey scale here is fine. Detail levels are quite good given the age of the elements, and the transfer stays film-like from start to finish, showing no issues with noise reduction , edge enhancement or compression artifacts.
The English language 16-bit LPCM Mono track is on par, quality wise, with the video. There are no alternate language subtitle options provided but English subtitles have been included. There's a little bit of hiss here and there and range is quite understandably limited but dialogue stays clean and clear and easy enough to follow. The levels are properly balanced throughout, and while there are some audible defects here and there, overall it sounds just fine given the history of the picture and the elements available to use for this release.
Extras start with an audio commentary from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas that, like the author's other commentaries for this series, is quite an interesting listen. There's a lot of focus here on Lila Leeds and plenty of detail about her aforementioned arrest with Robert Mitchum, but there's also a lot of info here about Babb, some thoughts on the director's work on this picture, the cast, the themes that the film explores and plenty more. This is definitely worth taking the time to listen to.
A second feature, the seventy-six-minute The Devil's Sleepfrom 1949, is also included. Touted as \\\"an expose of the pep pill racket\\\", the film introduces us to one Umberto Scali (Timothy Farrell), a man who runs a health spa for women where he runs a clandestine operation pushing uppers, bennies and the like, preying on his clientele, most of whom are hoping to make some progress with their weight loss goals. Scali wants more, however, and in order to bring in more clients for the illegal side of his business, he hires a sleazy dud to pose as his nephew, get a big old party going, and get all of the kids who attend hooked on bennies, a plan that, should it work, will massively increase the size of his customer base. The noble Judge Rosalind Ballentine (Lita Grey-Chaplin) gets wind of what Scali's up to and hopes to find a way to shut him down, but when her daughter is photographed at one of Scali's shindigs, she backs off. Thankfully for society at large, there are a couple of honest cops around who know what it takes to deal with the likes of Scali!
Directed by W. Merle Connell, this is another drug scare film, though this one does at least tackle something a bit more dangerous than weed. It's pretty melodramatic and at times quite over the top in its depiction of narcotic use, but it's entertaining in that way that old drug scare films are entertaining. Farrell is a kick to watch as the main villain in the film, and the script gives him and the rest of the cast plenty of top notch terrible material work with. The film was produced by George Weiss, who bank rolled Glen Or Glenda? for Ed Wood.
The black and white film is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and famed at 1.33.1, taking up 19.2GBs of space, once again taken from elements in less than pristine condition but completely watchable if you don't mind the print damage. The English language 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track has some hiss and occasional distortion but otherwise is serviceable enough. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are trailers for She Shoula Said No!, The Devil\'s Sleep (Hopped Up), Test Tube Babies, Pin-Down Girls (Racket Girls) and Marihuana. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
The Kino Lorber/Something Weird Video Blu-ray release of She Shoulda Said No! and The Devil\'s Sleep is a blast, the type of schlock that fans of vintage exploitation pictures and drug scare films will have a field day with. The presentation is about as good as the elements will likely allow for, and the commentary and bonus trailers add some value. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.